US & Canada

Florida ex-officer Nouman Raja convicted in fatal shooting of black motorist

Nouman Raja in court Image copyright CBS/ Pool
Image caption Nouman Raja, 41, faces a minimum of 25 years in prison

A Florida ex-policeman has been found guilty of manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder in the 2015 shooting death of a black musician.

Nouman Raja, 41, faces a minimum of 25 years in prison for the killing of Corey Jones, whose vehicle had broken down in 2015 when he was shot.

Prosecutors say Raja lied about crucial details of the fatal encounter.

A recording of Jones calling tow truck operators proved in court that Raja had not identified himself as police.

Prosecutors say that the call, placed by Jones at 03:15 local time on 18 October 2015, captured Raja pulling up to the scene at the Palm Beach Gardens motorway exit ramp.

The call, which was played to jurors during the eight-day trial, begins with Jones calmly requesting a tow truck, then continues with Raja and Jones exchanging words before six shots are fired from Raja's personal Glock pistol.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jones had been performing at a local bar hours before he was killed

As the tone of a car door sounds, Jones is heard saying "huh?".

Raja replied: "You good?" and Jones says that he is.

"Really?" Raja said twice, before he began shouting for Jones to put his hands up, using an expletive.

Jones replied: "hold on", before gunfire broke out.

Image copyright CBS/ Pool

Raja fired his weapon three times then waited about 10 seconds before firing off three more shots.

Investigators say Jones had pulled out his legally owned handgun, which he had purchased only days earlier to protect the nearly $10,000 (£7,600) in drum equipment that he had in his broken-down SUV.

Prosecutors say he feared that he was being robbed after Raja drove his vehicle within feet of where Jones' vehicle was stranded.

Image copyright Palm Beach Gardens Police Department/Facebook
Image caption Officer Raja (second from right) was fired from the police force shortly after the shooting

Raja, who was on duty at the time and driving an unmarked van, was wearing plain clothes. His vehicle did not have a dash camera and he was not wearing a body camera.

During the trial, Raja's police supervisor testified that he did not put on a police vest to identify himself, as he had been told to do for any encounters with civilians.

He also did not show the police badge that he had in his pocket.

Hours after Jones' death, a video was made of Raja walking detectives through how the shooting unfolded.

He claimed he identified himself as a police officer and asked Jones if he needed help, but the tape appeared to disprove that.

"I identified myself as a police officer," he told detectives, adding "this guy's trying to kill me and I was, and I, I didn't want to die".

In court, Raja's defence lawyers argued that Jones' "huh" from the tape proves that earlier words were exchanged that were not picked up by the iPhone's mouthpiece.

They argued that Raja should be protected under Florida's "stand your ground law" because he feared for his life.

Jones' family members who sat through the trial cried at times when images of his body was shown lying in the grass on the highway embankment, CBS reported.

After the verdict was read, one family member told the Associated Press that the "the sweetest sound was the click of those handcuffs" on Raja as he was led away from the courtroom.

Palm Beach Gardens police fired Raja days after the shooting. He has been under house arrest since charges were filed in 2016.

According to US media, Raja is the first Florida officer to be convicted of an on duty shooting in 30 years.

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